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Notre Dame Lacrosse versus North Carolina: postmortem

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Fighting Irish suffer uncharacteristic late collapse, giving up 5 goal lead with 7 minutes left

Chris Humphreys-USA TODAY Sports

We're not sure what to write here.  The Irish had the game comfortably in hand midway through the 4th quarter when Sergio Perkovic scored his 4th goal and put Notre Dame up 5.  What followed was an array of prevent offense, poorly executed faceoff play, and defensive midfielders on roller skates in full retreat.  It was a mess.  Long story short, UNC scores 7 straight, and for the first time in a very, very long time, the Irish are not able to mount a comeback.

It was a bummer, but at least it wasn't a particularly meaningful game.  It won't change much.  The Irish may drop a few spots in the rankings, but unless the season completely goes south, the Irish should still host a first round NCAA game, and they are scheduled to play Duke in the ACC semifinal regardless.

Before we get to the autopsy, check out this ND goal as halftime expires.  Nothing like a 50 yard shot with no time on the clock.

From our pregame game notes:

*Will the Irish shake off the rust early and will the D-mids continue their excellent play:   Notre Dame allowed a goal off the opening faceoff but ended the first up 6-3 and humming along.   However the seeds of collapse were there.  Passes were sloppy and nothing was crisp.  The Irish were scoring fine but nothing looked good.  The Irish committed uncharacteristic penalties and gave up man-down and transition goals.  It was odd as North Carolina just kept scoring, something no team has done this season, and it was difficult to figure out how.  Finally, not only did the Irish give up double-digit goals for the first time this season, they gave up an absurd 17 goals.

*Will there be a new distributor on offense:  Nope.  Other than a few Kavanaugh assists, the bulk of the goals were of the usual unassisted variety.  Some credit goes to Ryder Garnsey with 2 nice assists. The Irish scored 15, in the first 52 minutes of the game, so it's not like they were having any trouble scoring, so this is probably not worth fussing about this game.

*Will Notre Dame dial up the pressure on faceoffs and ride to create transitional opportunities:  The Irish came intent on making the Tar Heels miserable, but execution was not very good and got worse as the game progressed.  In the UNC 7 goal run, Finley and Travisano were gun-shy to avoid another procedure penalty, the faceoff unit wiffed on all kinds of ground balls, and since they were mostly using double-poles on the wings, when UNC gained possession, Notre Dame was a hot mess in transitional D with the poles trailing the play.  Double poling faceoffs is awesome, but when it goes bad it goes very bad.  The ride, for the first time since around the Ohio State game, was a non-factor.

*Injuries:  It appeared Notre Dame survived unscathed, so there's that.

So what happened?

This was unlike any Notre Dame this season.  Frankly, the close defense was quite good throughout the game.  Other than a few bad penalties, Landis, Glazener and Epple were very good and frustrated the heck out of the UNC offense. The TV announcers harped about  the UNC plan to "take it to Landis," but he and and the close D more than took care of business one-on-one in the half field set. The middies were hit-or-miss, and Shane Doss was more unlucky than off today.  He got a good piece of a lot of shots that trickled in anyway.  It happens.

Offensively, other than for a stretch in the 2nd and the fiasco in the late 4th, the offense had no problem scoring.  It wasn't the prettiest offense, but goals were being tallied up.  The highlights were the ridiculous half-field shot to end the half and a Perkovic step-down that was harder than I've ever see him shoot.  How we wish there was a radar on that one, there was an audible gasp in the stadium.

Man-down defense was subpar, and this helped keep UNC in the game, as was the faceoff game that became progressively more ineffective as the game went on .  The Tar Heels made a goalie change late in the game that gave them a bit of a spark, but in the end in was just bad execution that did Notre Dame in.  Bad faceoffs led to transitions, these were defended poorly up high, and goals piled up.  Perhaps what bugged me most is that ND stopped trying to score with about eight minutes left.  It was a weird prevent-like offense which seemed out of place given how easily the Irish were scoring up to that point.  It seemed this played a big part in letting UNC feel they could get back in the game. Before publishing this piece we decided to edit above to note that the bigger problem was probably that the Irish had almost no possession in the last few minutes because of the problems at faceoff X.  There was a temptation to point a finger primarily at the D middies, but ND-Atl 2.0 and 2.1 are quick to remind us that as talented as the unit is, it is stacked with underclassmen new to the role.  To get caught on their heels in such an emotional run is certainly understandable and a learning experience.  Coach Byrne says it best:

#MattLandisTewaaraton took a hit today. This is not because be played poorly, as he played very well to our observation and was fantastic one-on-one, but his chances are linked to the reputation of the defense as a whole.  17 goals put a dent in their invincibility.

Anyway, our notes for this game are a mess.  It was a very unusual performance.  While we are disappointed in the result, we think the Irish will simply move on from this an focus on Duke.  If we had to guess, yesterday's game may not give Duke or Syracuse much of a blueprint on how to deal with the Irish D, but against a faced-paced transition offense like Brown, as gimmicky as we view it, Notre Dame will have a real problem if they play like they did yesterday.

Stat sheet for those interested.

Sunday brunch recap from Notre Dame

We'll get an ACC preview up this week.  The entirety of Team ND-Atl will be there for the Duke game and hopefully to watch some practice, too.  It's a great lacrosse venue, should be fun.  It looks to be an 8:30 start, ESPNU.